Walsh says IAG in ‘no rush’ to complete Aer Lingus deal

Government decision is still thought to be weeks away

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh

 

International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) is still keen to buy Aer Lingus despite the Government’s delay in deciding whether or not to sell the State’s stake in the Irish carrier, according to its chief executive, Willie Walsh.

IAG, owner of British Airways and Iberia, is offering to buy Aer Lingus for €1.36 billion or €2.55 a share, provided the State and Ryanair are prepared to sell their shares, which amount to 54.9 per cent of the airline.

A Government decision on the sale of the State’s 25.1 per cent stake was widely expected weeks ago, and it has been suggested that IAG may pull out if the delay goes on much longer.

However, Mr Walsh stressed that the group is in “no hurry” and is relaxed about the timing of any deal. “My board is very happy, they have consistently said that this is a deal we would like to do and that remains the position,” he said.

Mr Walsh added that the process was not not putting any pressure on him and was not distracting the rest of the group from its day-to-day business.

IAG has been in talks with the Government over the sale of the State’s stake since it made a formal approach to Aer Lingus in January but a Cabinet decision is still thought to be weeks away.

Full capacity

Addressing a Leinster Society of Chartered Accountants’ lunch in Dublin, Mr Walsh said the political hurdles in the way of getting a third runway for the London hub are too high to be cleared. “In 2050 Heathrow will still be a two-runway airport,” he said.

However, he said that this presented an opportunity to both Dublin and Shannon airports to expand their transatlantic businesses by taking passengers from the UK.

He also pointed out that both airports have an advantage in that they are the only ones in Europe to offer US customs and immigration pre-clearance.

Mr Walsh told the gathering that most British business people wanted the UK to remain in the EU, although many of them support the notion that prime minister David Cameron should renegotiate the terms of its membership. The conservative government has promised a referendum on the issue next year.

Challenges

Most members of the larger British Chamber of Commerce feel the same way, he noted. “There is ongoing and growing concern within the UK that a withdrawal would lead to challenges for the UK.”

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